GameStop mania has spilled over into a popular exchange-traded fund, as the WallStreetBets craze reaches beyond shares favored on social media.
The fund, State Street ’s SPDR S&P Retail ETF, was created in 2006 to give investors broad exposure to mall-store firms. Its shares have surged 23% this year, far outstripping a 4% gain in the S&P 500, despite the uncertain outlook for retail. Behind those gains are the traders who congregate on social-media platforms such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum and whose enthusiasm has turned this mundane investment into a roller coaster.
On Jan. 27, GameStop soared 135%, driven by events such as Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeting “Gamestonk.” The State Street fund jumped 42% the same day. The next day, GameStop shares tumbled 44% and the fund, known by its ticker XRT, dropped about 9%.
The Committee on Financial Services of the United States House of Representatives has scheduled a hearing on “recent market volatility involving GameStop [Corporation (GME)] stock and other stocks.” The hearing will be held virtually, starting at 12 noon Eastern Time on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Among those called to testify are Vladimir Tenev, CEO of online trading firm Robinhood Markets, Inc., and Steve Huffman, CEO and co-founder of social media community and online forum site Reddit.1
In addition to singling out hedge funds for criticism, it is likely that Robinhood CEO Vladimir Tenev will face hostile questioning about his company’s actions in the GameStop affair. In particular, the committee memorandum notes that payment for order flow (PFOF) has been Robinhood’s chief source of revenue since its inception and that its decision to restrict trading in GameStop and other stocks may have been influenced by its business ties to investment firms that were caught in short squeezes on these stocks.4
The committee memorandum also notes: “In December 2020, the SEC charged Robinhood with making misstatements about the firm’s receipt of payment for order flow and for failing to comply with its duty to ensure that customer trades were executed on the best possible terms. Robinhood’s failure to satisfy its best execution obligations resulted in more than $34 million in aggregate customer losses. Robinhood was censured and agreed to pay $65 million to settle the action.”
The YouTube streamer known as Roaring Kitty, who helped drive a surge of interest in GameStop Corp , will testify before a House panel on Thursday alongside top hedge fund managers.
The House Financial Services Committee is examining how a flood of retail trading drove GameStop and other shares to extreme highs, squeezing hedge funds like Melvin Capital that had bet against it.
The witness list was announced on Friday by Representative Maxine Waters and includes Keith Gill, who also goes by Roaring Kitty, Robinhood Chief Executive Vlad Tenev, Citadel CEO Kenneth Griffin, Melvin CEO Gabriel Plotkin and Reddit CEO Steve Huffman.
The Justice Department’s fraud section and the San Francisco U.S. attorney’s office have sought information about the activity from brokers and social-media companies that were hubs for the trading frenzy, the people said. Prosecutors have subpoenaed information from brokers such as Robinhood Markets Inc., the popular online brokerage that many individual investors used to trade GameStop and other shares, the people said.
GameStop shares surged from about $20 to $483 over a period of two weeks in January. The stock has since fallen to around $50. It was fueled by an army of bullish individual traders exhorting one another on Reddit to buy the shares and squeeze hedge funds that bet the price would fall. Traders who bet stock prices will decline are known as short sellers.
Long-held strategies such as evaluating company fundamentals have gone out the window in favor of momentum. War has broken out between professionals losing billions and the individual investors jeering at them on social media. Meanwhile, the frenzy of activity is stirring regulatory and legal concerns, as well as the attention of the Biden administration. The White House press secretary said on Wednesday that its economic team, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, is monitoring the situation.
The newbie investors are gathering on platforms such as Reddit, Discord, Facebook and Twitter . They are encouraging each other to pile into stocks, bragging about their gains and, at times, intentionally banding together to intensify losses among professional traders, who protest that social-media hordes are conspiring to move stock prices.
Author(s): Gunjan Banerji, Juliet Chung and Caitlin McCabe
Silver futures surged as much as 13% to Monday, touching eight-year highs. That follows a 6% rally last week when some posts on the WallStreetBets group on Reddit called for betting on silver as a way to hurt big banks they believe are artificially suppressing prices.
Meanwhile, retail sites warned customers over the weekend they could not meet skyrocketing demand for silver bars and coins. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission said it is monitoring the silver markets and “remains vigilant in surveilling these markets for fraud and manipulation.” And “#silversqueeze” is trending on Twitter.
However, it’s not clear who the Reddit users are — nor whether their market moves match the claims online.
A number of Democrats and Republicans united in opposition this week to the strict limits imposed by Robinhood and other online stock brokerages on the purchasing of GameStop and other stocks swept up in a Reddit-fueled trading frenzy.
Disparate members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Ken Buck, R-Colo., and Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, were among those who criticized the move, with many calling for hearings that Democratic leaders say will soon take place in both the House and Senate as what began as an internet movement continues to roil Wall Street.
Lawmakers trained attention on the volatility surrounding GameStop’s stock as several others this week. The stock climbed from $4 only a few months ago to more than $400 this week, juiced by an online movement not dissimilar to others that have broadly altered the political landscape in recent years. At the same time, hedge funds that made large bets on GameStop’s stock cratering — known as “shorting” — began to pile up big losses. Then the brokerages instituted limits, leading to charges of collusion with the larger financial entities facing big losses.
Gamestop’s stock has been on a wild roller coaster ride, rising by roughly 640% from the start of last week to its peak. After Robinhood and other brokers initializing trading restrictions due to the heightened market activity, the stock has since fallen more than 80% to $90 per share.
But the stock’s volatile price action doesn’t come close to telling the story of how this market frenzy began on the Reddit community r/wallstreetbets, the hedge funds that suffered when GameStop share price rose dramatically, and why Robinhood halted trading last week.
Massachusetts’ top securities regulator, William Galvin, is looking into the actions of Keith Patrick Gill, the former MassMutual broker who played a key role in the trading frenzy surrounding video game retailer GameStop and other stock last week.
When people in the Reddit community r/WallStreetBets began pushing up GameStop’s share price, establishment investors started losing billions and billions of dollars. Since then, GameStop’s shares have been swinging wildly, going from about $17 at the start of the year to $483 last week and then to $90 by the close of Monday’s trading. Shares rose slightly on Tuesday to close at $92.41, which is still down more than 80% from their highs last week.